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Jan 2, 2010 1:07 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Shinnecock Inlet dredging should be completed by January

Jan 2, 2010 1:07 AM

After some weather-related delays, a dredging project in the Shinnecock Inlet that began earlier this month is on track to be completed by the end of the year, according to the contractor and local officials.

The inlet, which connects Shinnecock Bay, and the commercial fishing dock, to the Atlantic Ocean, is in the process of being both widened and deepened. The $11.72 million project, which is being funded by Washington, D.C., and Albany, will make the inlet passable to commercial boats during low tides.

The contractor, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, began the project on December 7 after it was hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Since then, storms have occasionally halted work, and a nor’easter on December 13 damaged a pump discharge mechanism on the company’s dredging vessel, The Illinois.

Dredging began again after workers repaired the mechanism on Friday, December 18, and work is now expected to be completed before January, according to Rick Elizondo, the project’s manager, and Major Michael Clancy, deputy commander of the New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

“They’ll be done by the end of the year, Mother Nature-willing and weather-dependent,” Maj. Clancy said.

On Monday, it was not clear whether the weekend blizzard would delay the project.

The dredging has an environmental deadline—workers need to finish by Friday, January 15, the start of spawning season for white flounder, Mr. Elizondo said. That season overlaps with the breeding season for endangered piping plovers, so dredging would not be able to begin again until September if next month’s deadline is missed.

The company plans to remove a total of 480,000 cubic yards of sand from the bottom of the inlet and deposit it on nearby beaches. As of late last week, workers had dredged about 100,000 cubic yards of silt from the waterway.

The dredging will bring the depth of the inlet to 22 feet or more. Currently, the depth in the inlet varies between 7 and 18 feet, causing a hazard for boats that might run aground during low tide.

A deeper inlet will make the area safer for boaters, and bolster the local fishing economy by allowing larger vessels to get through, said Scott Horowitz, president of the Shinnecock Marlin and Tuna Club. “It’s important for the economy of the area to have a navigable inlet,” he said.

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, who helped obtain federal funds for the project, updated that status of the dredging project at a press conference held on the shore in Hampton Bays, near the inlet, on Friday, December 18. He was joined by a number of state and local officials, including State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi.

Mr. Bishop helped secure $8.21 million in federal funds for the project, including $5 million in federal stimulus money. New York State contributed $3.51 million.

“This is a true federal-state partnership,” Mr. Bishop said.

He credited Mr. Nuzzi for originally pushing for the dredging to be completed in 2009. Mr. Nuzzi said that shortly after he took office in 2006, local fishermen began telling him that the inlet was hazardously shallow.

“We became aware of the shoaling conditions that eventually became worse and worse,” he said.

An incident in March 2008 highlighted the dangerous conditions at the Shinnecock Inlet when a 45-foot commercial fishing boat, the North Sea, became grounded for more than three hours on a nearby sandbar, sustaining an estimated $15,000 in damage.

That incident followed a series of boating accidents near the inlet in 2005. On January 3 of that year, the Hail Mary II, a 62-foot steel-hulled dragger, capsized while carrying 40,000 pounds of squid near the inlet. On July 28, the Providence, a 47-foot dragger, also capsized and sank after being hit by a wave while trying to enter the inlet. And in April 2005, the 50-foot dragger Champion ran ashore on the beach in Southampton Village after a rope got tangled in its rudder while it was trying to enter the inlet.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has intermittently dredged the inlet since the late 1980s. The inlet was last dredged in 2004, when 302,590 cubic yards of sand was removed from its bottom and used to replenish local beaches.

A representative from the Army Corps of Engineers said the sand that workers are currently pumping up from the inlet floor is being used to repair erosion damage at nearby Tiana Beach, about 10,000 feet away.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Major Clancy said.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (4662), north sea on Dec 22, 09 5:11 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Dec 22, 09 9:22 PM
That sounds inappropriate to me -- if you do something illegal might be good to keep it to yourself and not assume others play your game too -- you should check with your cop friends -- I'm sure it would be free for a buddy.
By fix-it-now (216), sag harbor on Dec 22, 09 9:35 PM
Another waste of taxpayer money. I'm sure that $6 million could have been used to maybe feed the poor. $6 million of taxpayer money spent on a handful of commercial fisherman who can't pilot their boats. Maybe they should move their boats into Moriches bay.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Dec 30, 09 9:36 PM
Moriches Inlet is a lot worse.As a matter of fact its officially closed to navigation by the Coast Guard.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jan 1, 10 11:21 AM